In this blog, Andrew James, Editorial Director at Jessica Kingsley Publishers blogs about routes to publishing for LGBTQ+ writers.
The publishing industry is crying out for LGBTQ+ voices, but one of the biggest barriers is that publishing can seem exclusive, and aspiring authors often don’t understand how the publishing process works. I want to demystify this process for you and give you advice on how to submit and get your book published so that our industry truly reflects the diverse society for whom we publish.
The most traditional route to getting your book published is to find a literary agent. Most major publishers don’t accept unsolicited or unagented manuscripts directly from writers (simply because they would be inundated) and so signing with a literary agent is an important first step if you want to be published.
A literary agent will aim to find the right publisher for your work, pitching it to relevant editors and publishers, negotiating the best possible deal on your behalf, and supporting you through your career as a writer, and in exchange, the agent will take a cut of your earnings from the book.
Agents often have their own specialisms, or are looking for particular writers/genres, so it pays to do your research so that you find an agent who is right for you and who will be drawn to your work. The Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook is a good place to start, but I’d also suggest looking at the Acknowledgments page of books by other LGBTQ+ writers as they’ll likely mention who their agent was. Agents, much like publishers, are looking for new talent, so don’t be shy and make sure you send your work out (though do check if an agent is open for submissions and what their submission policy is on their website).
Some publishers, especially independent publishing houses, have an open submissions policy and accept unsolicited submissions and unagented authors. The requirements for submission will vary – some will expect a draft manuscript, or a few sample chapters, whereas others will only require a book proposal form (essentially an outline of your project), or a proposal form and samples of your writing. It’s worth checking individual publishers’ submissions pages for what material they require. Responses to unsolicited submissions will differ between publishing houses – some will aim to respond within a set timeframe, whereas others won’t have a response policy.
A Short Note on Book Proposals
A book proposal is an important document for setting out your vision for the book, providing a prospective publisher, or agent, with as much detail as possible about your project and yourself. It’s always best to provide as much detail as possible in the proposal – especially chapter summaries, detail on the competition and how your book will sit alongside this and also the market and who the book is specifically for – as this will help speed up the process. I’d also add as much about your own platform in terms of social media presence, your networks and routes to market, or if you’ve written before. Most publishers will have a proposal form you can download from their website.
Self-publishing has come on a long way and is no longer perceived as the option for those who can’t get published. It’s incredibly easy to set up (via platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct, Apple Books and Kobo) and allows an author a level of freedom they wouldn’t have with a publisher and/or an agent, though you’ll lack the expertise of the publisher and their marketing, sales and distribution channels. However, a successful self-published author can often draw the attention of publishers, resulting in a traditional publishing deal.
A more recent disruptor to the publishing industry, as with self-publishing, crowdfunding a book is now a popular route to getting your book into the hands of readers. Publishers such as Unbound work on a crowdfunding model – publishing books that successfully meet their crowdfunding targets – and crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or Patreon allow for authors to raise the funds to publish. As with self-publishing, this model can also attract traditional publishers since a successful campaign is a clear indicator of interest in a project.
A vanity publisher is someone who asks an author to pay to have their book published. Personally, an author should never have to pay to be published, and I would strongly avoid vanity publishing and opt for self-publishing as an alternative. It is highly likely, once the book has published, that they will not help you with the promotion, marketing or distribution of your book.
Writing Schemes and Programmes
In a drive to discover new writers and widen diversity in the industry, several writing schemes and programmes have been established by publishers and agencies for under-represented communities, which offer an alternative route to being published:
LGBTQ+ Publishers and Agents
As a first port of call, any aspiring LGBTQ+ writer should check out these publishers and agents who have a specific remit to sign and publish LGBTQ+ writers.
For further information on how to get published, and the publishing process in general, I would recommend checking out these resources:
How to Get Published – an in-depth guide from Penguin for writers on the world of publishing.
Demystifying the Publishing Process – an article from Dialogue Books that explains the process of publishing and the various roles involved from Editorial through to Finance.
Pride in Publishing – professional network for LGBTQ+ people working in the UK book industry, but they have useful advice and articles.
Andrew James is Editorial Director at Jessica Kingsley Publishers and former co-Chair of the Hachette Pride Network. He commissions on LGBQT+ topics and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org